Author Archives: George Simmers

After many years as a teacher, I retired and began researching for a Ph.D. on the fiction of the Great War – especially the books, stories and plays that were written during the War or immediately afterwards.

Rupert Brooke in Space

On Newsnight tonight, Benedict Cumberbatch read out an astonishing memo. It was written to Richard Nixon in 1969, at the time of the Apollo mission to the moon. William Safire had been asked to draft a speech for the President to make to the nation in preparation for the worst eventuality: that the astronauts, having […]

Warwick Deeping’s ‘Old Wine and New’

Asked to write about Sorrell and Son for a newspaper series on bestsellers, Kingsley Amis recorded that he began by taking umbrage at the book’s snobbery, and marked particularly repellent passages by writing ‘piss and shit’ in the margin. After a while, though, he stopped annotating, because he had become so gripped by the story. […]

Ernie Lotinga in ‘Josser in the Army’

In June 1927, T. S. Eliot wrote to Virginia Woolf: Have just been to see Ernie Lotinga in his new Play at the Islington Empire. Magnificent. He is the greatest living British histrionic artist, in the purest tradition of British Obscenity. Until recently I thought that almost all Lotinga’s film work had been lost, apart […]

The Women Police, and Warwick Deeping

It’s a hundred years since the introduction of women police in Britain, and there will be a documentary about their history on BBC4 next Monday. I wonder whether the programme will explain how very unpopular they were at first, especially with women. An interesting essay by Clare Langley-Hawthorne fills in the history. The first female […]

Rose Allatini’s husband

Cyril Scott in middle age Attempting to find out more about Rose Allatini, author of the extraordinary Despised and Rejected (1918), I’ve been looking at the autobiography of her husband Cyril Scott (1879-1970). He was a composer, and Bone of Contention (1969) is mostly about his music. It is a pleasant amble through his life, […]

W. Pett Ridge: ‘The Amazing Years’ (1917)

Few best-selling novelists are quite as forgotten as William Pett Ridge (1859–1930), who a century ago mapped the fascinating social borderland where the upper-working classes meet  the lower-middles. Social mobility is his theme, and he has the knack of getting you to care about his characters as they tread the uncertain paths of early twentieth-century […]

‘Is that all?’

From W. Pett Ridge’s novel, The Amazing Years (1917): “Where were you wounded?” was the usual inquiry, and the soldier could never tell whether the questioner wanted geographical or bodily information. “l’m sure you must be dreadfully keen on getting back to the fighting line,” was a remark that did not always gain an enthusiastic […]

When War Art is Bad Art

In Manchester on Friday Marion and I visited the refurbished Whitworth Art Gallery. The handsome building has been enlarged, and its redesigned interior looks very stylish indeed. ‘Stylish’ also describes some of the art inside, but in a not-so-positive way – in the sense of ‘more style than substance’. One piece struck me as the […]

‘Oh What a Lovely War’ on tour

It’s over fifty years since I first saw Oh What a Lovely War at Wyndham’s Theatre in London. The anniversary revival at Stratford East gained some good reviews last year, so I took the opportunity yesterday to catch up with the touring version of the production at  Manchester Opera House. I went with mixed feelings. […]

Logistics and Support

Almost all writing about the War is about the sharp end – the fighting. The only novel I’ve read that is set in a labour battalion is Robert Keable’s Simon called Peter (and the subject of that is the chaplain’s sexual awakening, rather than the essential forestry work carried out by the soldiers who are […]

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